Five months without a smile, giggle, or chuckle. My post-baby body desperately needed a break from the reality of motherhood, so I indulged in a long overdue pedicure. My mind languished under the weight of responsibility, that was until the pedicurist began my pedicure. Suddenly, my not-so-ticklish feet, became tickle hotspots, and before I knew it, deep soul chuckles bubbled out, and tears danced down my cheeks and puddled on my shirt. I could not stop laughing. Apparently, the heaviness of post-partum depression had kidnapped my joy, and my ticklish feet paid its ransom that night.
Sadly, laughter has disappeared from my life on more than one occasion. Ten years after the post-partum incident, giggles vanished from my life once again. This time it stayed away much longer. In the middle of an afternoon outing with my husband, laughter made a surprise visit. This time the revelation of my ha-ha hiatus perplexed me. How had I gone so long without laughing? Why do I choose to keep living my life without this lighthearted hero? No answer volunteered for the blame, but epiphany sat down next to me, and said, “You must take drastic measures to make laughter a daily habit.”
William Frey, a Stanford University Medical School psychiatrist and expert on health and laughter, reports that “the average kindergartner laughs 300 times a day while the average adult averages just 17 laughs a day”1. Obviously, the weight of adulthood and responsibility presses down on the best of us. However, I realized that I lived through most days without a single chuckle. We don’t commit this crime purposefully. Laughter is a welcomed friend, but if we truly understood its benefits, we would beg for chuckle opportunities every day.
Proverbs speaks scientific truth when it says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine.”3 Cheerful hearts produce laughter; they learn to look for laughter in any situation in life. This equals health to the body just as Proverbs mentions. Physically, a good laugh can boost immunity, lower stress hormones, decrease pain, relax muscles, and even prevent heart disease.2 In addition, our minds enjoy faster resilience and a lessening of anxiety and fear.
Again, the question must be asked, “why is laughter not a vital part of our lives?” There are no good answers for that question except for a meager understanding of laughter itself. Laughter falls into two categories: accidental and forced. Obviously, we encounter accidental laughter at various times in our lives. However, as we grow older we don’t run into giggle-fests very often. What’s the solution? Forced laughter. This phrase seems oxymoronic, but all kidding aside, it is not!
It is a scientific fact that the body cannot distinguish between fake and real laughter.4 Both produce the same health benefits. It’s true! Take a moment and laugh out loud – fake it. Truth is, you probably laughed at yourself because you felt so silly. You just experienced both forced and genuine laughter. Even better, you just gave your body a healthy boost.
Unfortunately, laughter is one of those don’t-know-what-you-got-until-it’s-gone gifts. And when its really gone, we don’t know how to get it back. There is a solution. It involves getting purposeful and personal with our inner laugh meter. First, track your laughter for a week. How much or how little do you laugh a day? Next, make a goal to laugh once everyday. That means put it on your to do list and make it happen. Now, increase your goal number of laughs per week until you find laughter a daily habit. Finally, take inventory of your hilarity hot-buttons. Ask yourself, what makes me laugh? Pay attention to the moments when you find yourself laughing. What triggered it? Once you have a list, seek out those moments. Be on the offense when it comes to daily filling your laughter tank.
We live in a serious society that equates propriety and solemn faces with success. In addition, life often deals a hand that is not a laughing matter. Socrates believed that “the comic and the tragic lie inseparably close, like light and shadow.” He is right because it is laughter that brings light to those dark and shadowy difficult times. Truthfully, we cannot feel angry, stressed, or depressed while laughing. It is scientifically impossible.2 If you don’t want sadness, steal a giggle; need to de-stress, dissolve into laughter, wish to control your anger, chortle and chuckle. Fake or genuine laughter diffuses any negative feelings, and the truth is sometimes life is so bad, you just gotta laugh!
- Laughter is the Best Medicine: The Health Benefits of Laughter
- Proverbs 17:22 The Message
- Washington Post via International Journal of Molecular Medicine